The work of the Champion’s Centre in Ponoka may sometimes go unnoticed; however, they continue to serve one of the community’s greatest needs and house and care for those battling with life barriers.
The first Champion’s Centre began in Ponoka in 2002 after an old medical building was purchased and turned into a home for individuals that need room and board. Jesus Christ, the Champion, was the inspiration for the centre.
The whole building was changed to be a home for low income people with built-in supervision. The examination rooms were turned into bedrooms, the laboratory became a kitchen, the x-ray room and ladies washroom were converted into bathrooms, the cast room into a laundry room, a lounge from the nurses station, the waiting area was turned into a café, and the antique store and doctor’s room changed to a recreation room. The dentist’s office on the second floor became a suite for the live-in manager.
Fred Klooster, manager of the Champion’s Centre and brother to the owner, is pleased with the work of the centre in Ponoka and believes that it helps the individuals that use it as well as the community. He also feels that there will be a demand for another centre sometime soon as a result of the rising number of people abusing drugs and alcohol.
“These people would be on the street or the hospital otherwise,” said “They can’t live on their own and we are going to get plenty more individuals that need the same thing because of the increase of drug and alcohol use, I think that another centre will be needed in the future.”
The Champion’s Centre helps keep people off the streets by providing low cost housing to people with a lower than average income that could be in danger of falling through the cracks of society.
Klooster says that he has seen the difference that the Champion’s Centre has made in the lives of the tenants and believes that it is an important place to have in Ponoka. He feels that the centre helps the individuals live in communal living and creates more independence as well as easing the pressure on the hospital.
“It is less stress on the health system,” he said. “Consider the fact how many people there are in the hospital and how much it is to keep them there. Those that are here can thrive in a communal setting while being provided with what they need.”
Coming from a corporate background Klooster did not have extensive knowledge of mental health but since becoming involved with the centre about seven years ago, he has learned a lot and his love for the tenants and the job has kept him involved in their lives and assist them with their daily needs including medication and finances.
“I really consider them as part of my extended family,” he said. “You have to have a passion for this sort of work and I’m here 24/7.”
Klooster realizes that each person in the Champion’s Centre has their own story and that the individuals requires their own tools for life. He strives to give them those opportunities and support and help with their daily living.
“Every person is different and each case is different,” he said. “They all need different things and take different medications, some of them can’t manage on their own and their main job is to take their medication everyday.”
Klooster has seen other organizations and groups in the community share in his passion for the centre by helping with the needs of the non-profit organization and encourages more to become involved.
“We have a lot of support from churches and some businesses,” he said. “But operating costs are a bottomless pit and with the rise of costs with everything it can get tight.”
The Champion’s Centre Inc is a Christian organization with its focus on serving the needs of individuals who require help with living on their own. The barriers the tenants may face include health issues, mental illness, economic obstacles, brain injuries, blindness and other impediments. The individuals of the centre have a supportive room and board setting and are assisted in various areas of life.
A woman’s shelter is currently being looked into and the Champion Centre’s board is gathering information and assessing the need.
“We are in the very early stages with this,” said Jeff Hanger chairman of the Champion Centre’s board. “We are in the process to identify the need for one and talking to agencies. We want a small centre that is like a home, we’re trying to move from centres to proper houses.”
For more information visit www.thechampionscentre.ca.